TRAI mulls consultation paper to bring down monthly TV bills of consumers

MUMBAI: Facing the ire of the customers, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is considering issuing a consultation paper to bring monthly TV bill of the consumers.

The TRAI’s new pricing regime, which came into force in December 2018, has not worked as planned. The essence of the new pricing regime is to provide choice and make sure that the consumer only pays for TV channels that they watch.

“A consultation paper is in the works on reducing the broadcasting tariffs. We will have to see what kind of mechanism can be adopted to do so,” The Economic Times has quoted a TRAI official as saying on condition of anonymity. The official refused to give specific details on possible ways in which the tariffs could be cut.

The official stated that the aim was to make TV channel pricing more transparent and to give control of channels to the consumers while making it more affordable. “But it did not pan out that way,” the official said.

While the new regime came into effect from 29th December, the TRAI had first extended the deadline to 31st January to provide sufficient time to the distribution platform operators (DPOs) to migrate customers to the new regime.

Since a large number of customers had still not migrated to the new regime, the authority in January the pushed the deadline to 31st March. The new deadline was not applicable for those subscribers who had exercised their choice under the new regime.

The TRAI’s new regulatory framework had met with a lot of legal hurdles with Star India challenging it in Madras High Court and Supreme Court. The broadcaster had argued that TRAI does not have the power to dictate price of the content.

However, the Supreme Court, in a landmark judgement, removed all doubts about TRAI’s jurisdiction over fixation of content pricing by ruling in favour of the regulator.

Even after the judgement was issued, there was some confusion in the industry whether the SC has also upheld the 15% bouquet discount cap clause. To clear doubts, the TRAI has moved the Supreme Court seeking the quashing of Madras High Court judgement and order dated 2 March 2018 and 23 May 2018 that held the 15% cap on the discount of MRP of a bouquet as arbitrary and not enforceable.

However, the appeal was dismissed as withdrawn in the Supreme Court as the bench of Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Vineet Saran noted that the regulator has delayed in seeking clarification on the said clause.

It also stated that the apex court has given its judgement in the matter by upholding the TRAI’s jurisdiction to frame tariff and regulation for the broadcasting sector. The bench left it to the TRAI to interpret the 30 October order with respect to the third proviso to the clause 3(3) of the tariff order.

Speaking to TelevisionPost.com, TRAI secretary SK Gupta at that time had said that the regulator will not be pressing for the implementation of the 15% discount cap for the time being. However, it will keep an eye on the way the new tariff framework is being implemented. The authority will step in, in case, it sees any distortion in the market.

“We are not pushing for the discount cap at this point. However, we are closely monitoring the situation. If we see any kind of distortion in the market we will meet with the stakeholders and take an appropriate decision,” Gupta had said.

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